Faithlife Sermons

Running The Race

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James was excited as he turned the two hundred mark heading towards home. Two and three –quarter laps had gone and he was still in the lead. His one and only goal was to win this race and he was full of confidence that he could do it. His thoughts race ahead to the podium, the applause, the glory, and his body reveled in the great feeling which it produced. He had started the last lap with a great lead. He had no reason to worry. His legs had a rhythm to them and it was okay.
Behind him Antonio had different thoughts. He had realized that James was confident, too confident. He was sure he could pass him and he planned to make his move at the one hundred metre mark. He had reduced the distance between himself and James and he knew he had plenty of reserve left. He would win this race.
As they turned towards the home stretch James heard the crowd beginning to get excited. He was bathing in the glory but then he realized that they were cheering for someone else. He heard the footsteps and his body felt a tremor of fear. He heard the breathing and his brain sent an urgent message to his legs but his legs retorted “sorry can’t do it!” His nose picked up the faint smell of perspiration as Antonio took him out. His eyes released the tears which they were holding for a situation such as this. His mind reeled from the realization that the dream it had created would never be fulfilled.
Antonio passed the finish line and James followed but the crowd was still cheering and celebrating. There was pandemonium in the stands. It was only then that they realized that the applause and the cheer were not for them but for those who were behind.
Those, who had sacrificed the idea of winning, to help each other reach the finish line. During the race many had given up and walked off the track, but Peter though he had pulled a ham-string did not. He now came in limping, being supported by his rival Alfonso. Alfonso had decided to give up his chase for a worldly medal for a more eternal medal.
James and Antonio neglected to understand that it is not just to finish the race but it is also important to realize what race you are running. Some races are far more important than others...
This past Thursday, we had a celebration of life service for Rich Guyott. As I met with the family, to plan the service, Rick and Val mentioned one thing that their dad always encouraged them to do… and that was to… “Run The Race”.
If you were here for the service on Thursday, then the first part of this message will be a review for you, but I’d like to expound a little further about the subject this morning than what I did on Thursday.
Turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 12:1-3 … (Read)
The Author of Hebrews tells us to “ with endurance the race that is set before us…
The question is…

Question: What is this “Race”?

The simple answer to that question is…

Answer: The race is the Christian Life

Just living and serving the master, Jesus Christ… making sure that we are living in such a way that is honoring and glorifying to God and encouraging others to do the same thing along the way.
The writer of the book of Hebrews, which some believe to be the Apostle Paul, compares the Christian life to a race… And Some of the same things which are essential to being victorious in a race are also key to being victorious in our Christian life. So, This morning I want us to look at some of these essentials.

Essentials needed to finish the race victoriously...

First and foremost… you need faith...

1. Faith is Essential...

Look at V.1 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us
Notice the Author says that those of us who are in this race are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses"… But Who are these witnesses?… Here is a little bible Study 101 for you… Anytime that you see the word “Therefore” in Scripture, the verses to follow are directly related to the section of Scripture that comes just before the word “Therefore”
Here we are in Hebrews Chapter 12, which starts with this word “Therefore”, which tells me that whatever was said in Chapter 11 directly pertains to the starting of Chapter 12… What do we find in Hebrews 11???… “The Great Faith Chapter” or “The Hall of Faith” as some like to call it...
The “Great Cloud of Witnesses” are those who have come before us, have run the race, and have completed it ! They are examples to us as to how to successfully, and victoriously run this race !
and the list goes on...
Right now the Olympics are being held in Tokyo… Have you ever seen a relay race ? The relay team is composed of four runners. Each one of them has a section of track that they must run, and when they finish their portion, they pass the baton to the next runner.... In the same way, Those who have run this race before us have now passed on the baton to us. The Question is… How will we run our portion of this race ? Will we be victorious ? Will we be successful ? Or will we drop the baton ? Will we become weary and unable to finish well?
There is a difference in the race that, we as Christians, run. It is not a 100 yard dash. It is a marathon. There are some folks that could blow away the field in the 100 yard dash, but would not be able to finish a marathon. Many Christians are good at a 100 yard dash. They run well for a short distance, but then drop out when they realize that the finish line is further away than they thought or that the race is more difficult than imagined.
This is where that first essential element to running this race comes in.
Faith is essential...

1.1 To enter the race.

The Christian life begins by placing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and what he did on the cross. It is through faith in his shed blood, and his resurrection that we enter the race. Faith is our ticket in...
Faith is essential...

1.2 To endure in the race.

1. There will be hurdles.
2. There will be hindrances.
3. There will be hurt.
4. There will be loss and sorrow
Endurance is essential to those participating in a race, and endurance is key to Christian living. There will always be hurdles or obstacles to overcome. We will always run into things or people or circumstances that will seek to hinder us in our Christian living. To endure... faith is essential. Faith is not only essential to enter the race, but it is essential to be able to endure while in this race as a believer!
Faith is essential...

1.3 To be effective in the race.

Whether or not we run well our race will be dependent upon our faith in God. Faith in God will keep us going when we feel like quitting ! To be victorious, to be effective as a believer in this world that we now live is essential !

2. Freedom is Essential

The middle part of verse one says “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us...”
Athletes used to wear training weights to help them prepare for the events. No athlete would actually participate wearing the weights because they would slow him down… A more modern analogy would be a baseball player who swings a bat with a heavy metal collar on it before he steps to the plate. But when it is his turn to bat, he removes the weight.
As believers we must realize that we cannot be successful in the Christian life if we are weighed down. There are some things that we must lay aside!… We need to be...

2.1 Free from burdens

"lay aside every weight"
Camels are supposed to carry burdens, but Christians don’t have to !
What do we do with our burdens?
1 Pet 5:7 tells us to “Cast all of our cares (Our anxieties, our burdens) on Him, because He cares for us”...
In answering the question; “What are the weights that we should remove that we might win the race” Warren Wiersbe says “Everything that hinders our progress. They might even be “good things” in the eyes of others. But a winning athlete does not choose between the good and the bad; he chooses between the better and the best.
So, we need to be free from burdens…
We also need to be…

2.2 Free from continued Sin

lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us...”
There are some who hold the idea that as a Christian you can lead a sinless life. I am not fully convinced that is true and that is not what I am trying to say. However, I do believe that we can have victory over the sins that we allow to ensnare us everyday… This could be
A language problem
An addiction problem
An attitude problem
A relationship problem
The list could go on...
Does this mean that you won’t ever stumble again???… not necessarily… but it does mean that you are truly making an effort to lay these “continued sins” aside.
Why is this so important??… Because sin hinders our fellowship with God and it hinders us from fulfilling whatever it is that He has called us to do.
1 John 1:9 is a great promise that we can hold on to, if and when we stumble… “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We also need to be...

2.3 Free from Bitterness

I know we didn’t read this far in the passage, but the latter part of v.15, in Hebrews 12, says “...lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
The NLT words it this way “Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
The root of bitterness will reach up and try to trip us in the middle of the race… We could find ourselves bitter...
Against other people
Against God
Against our current, personal situation...
Bitterness can even show itself in the form of worry...
But, Remember, from our study through Philippians, that our current circumstances can make us better, or they can make us bitter… the choice is ours to make...
And that leads up to our last essential this morning… which is, Our Focus...

3. Focus is Essential

Look at v.2... “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Not many races are won by looking behind or by staring up into the stands!
When the kids are running races during venture club, they have to run on the outside of all the pins that I set up. I will blow the whistle and the race is on. Some of the kids look straight ahead and run around the pins as fast as they can. There are a few though, that are continuously looking back to see if they are about to be passed. The ones that look back, even though they may be faster that the other runner, will usually end up losing the race because they are not focused on the task at hand.
They cannot run as fast with their bodies contorted out of shape (example)… also, they tend to run on the wrong side of the pin and I have to tell them to go back and run around the correct side.
It is important for us as Christians to have the proper focus as we run this race… We need to be...

3.1 Focused on Christ

He is the “Author and Finisher of our Faith”. This word “Author” could also be translated as Captain or Leader… John MacArthur says “It could be translated “pioneer,” “leader,” or “originator.” Christ is the source, the initiator, and the leader in regard to salvation. He has led the way into heaven as our forerunner.
Listen folks… We must focus on him, and follow his commands. We must allow what he has done, for us,... to encourage us. He has finished his work, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and from there he prays for us as we race… If that doesn’t encourage you, I am not sure what will…
Christ prays for you! Hebrews 7:25 says “...He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Christ is seated at the right hand of God and is interceding (or Praying) for us! What a great truth and encouragement for us all...
And finally… We need to be...

3.2 Focused on the Cross

If you are feel discouraged and wore down, even after reading the stories of Faith in Hebrews 11… Then look to the Cross… “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”...
During the first World War there was a British soldier who lost his nerve and felt he could no longer remain in the front lines. He deserted in the middle of the night somewhere in France or Belgium and began to make his way toward the coast hoping to find a way back to England. The night was dark and there was a think fog and he lost his way. He came to a cross roads and what he thought was a signpost. He climbed it and struck a match to see what it said. As he hung on the cross bar with one hand and lifted the match with the other he found himself looking into the face of Christ. He had climbed up a large crucifix that had been erected at that cross roads. That vision of Christ on the cross changed his heart and renewed his courage. He went back to the front lines and back to his friends.
I believe that soldier knew exactly what the Author of Hebrews was trying to say in V.3…
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.
This morning you may weary, and sense that you are falling behind. Your legs are weak under you, and getting heavy to move. You are to the point of dropping out of the race ! You’re ready to just sit down, and give up !
I want to encourage you that the race is not finished ! I want to encourage you to look at the cross, and look into the face of Christ. Remember what He endured, for you! Remember He lives, and is seated at the right hand of God, and from there, He prays for us, and encourages us to keep running the race.
Maybe you are here this morning and have never made the choice to give your life to Christ. You have never asked Him to forgive you of your sins… You have never asked Him to take control of your life… if you have never made that decision, I would encourage you to do that today. Don't wait, the time is now, because we are never guaranteed tomorrow...
For those that have already made the choice to turn their lives over to Christ and are running the Race of the “Christian life”, it is my hope and prayer that when the time comes for your race to end… that you can repeat the words of the Apostle Paul, found in 2 Timothy 4:7-8I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Lord Help us to “Run with endurance, the race that is set before us” and help us to lay a side every weight and sin that ensnares us…
Keep us focused on you, “The Author and Finisher of our faith” so that when our time comes, we can say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…”
Thank you Lord, for your faithfulness to us, even when we prove to be unfaithful...
May we find encouragement throughout your word and the promises that it holds...
We pray these things in Jesus Name… Amen!
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